Top alternatives to Microsoft Outlook

Summary:If you're using a Microsoft Windows operating system there is also a good chance that you use Office and Outlook as your email client. But is this really a choice?

Novell Evolution 2

Originally built for Linux systems by Ximian (purchased by Novell), Evolution is an open-source package and so comes standard with Linux systems using GNOME, including SuSE and Red Hat. (Fedora Core also comes with Evolution included.) Ximian has also been ported to the Mac (by Novell) and Windows (by Tor Lillqvist) markedly broadening its appeal.

This review focuses on a Windows version, which comes with an MSI installer produced by DIP Consultants. Our brief overview of the Linux version uncovered no significant differences between the platforms.

The user interface is not like any other product reviewed here, but there was certainly a feeling of deja vu with Microsoft Outlook in mind. Ultimately there are limits to the practical ways in which the data handled can be presented, so it does not pay to be too different from the opposition. Users will not want to spend too much time learning new procedures.

Its search and filtering functions both have an impressive array of options. When filtering incoming emails it is also possible to launch applications, play sounds or pipe an email to another application. Messages can be marked with colours and priority tags.

Evolution supports both tasks and memos. Memos are notes to which a date and category can be applied. Tasks allow for more detail in terms of project management, having the option of start and finish dates as well as status tags (in addition to the category tags). Having both may seem like overkill to some users, but it's great to have options.

Evolution has not yet been assessed by the Email Standards Project, but testing by Enex suggests that it would be classed as "poor". There were significant failures in the formatting of some HTML/CSS elements, resulting in much of the styling of some messages appearing as raw source at the end of the message.

Aside from the basics of POP3 and IMAP support, Evolution can integrate with Microsoft Exchange and Novell GroupWise servers. It also supports Hula and Usenet News feeds. Evolution also includes support for work groups by allowing shared online calendars.

The software is promoted as being able to kill Outlook on the basis of virus immunity. Evolution would not be alone in this claim, though, as many other alternatives also have the advantage of low profiles to malware. Aside from bugs Microsoft may have in its software, miscreants target it because it is the biggest.

Evolution is harder to update than Microsoft products, but this is less of a concern given the rare need for security updates. Spam filtering can also be undertaken with Evolution. From a functional perspective there is little else that distinguishes Evolution from Outlook — apart from pricing and servicing.

In true open source style, there is no help file included in the base install. When online FAQs were investigated, still more open source quirks were found. While a commercial application might explain that a feature cannot be customised, it is sometimes suggested that an Evolution feature can be adjusted if compiling from source.

Also, rather than directing the user to a user-friendly GUI, you might instead be asked to edit a configuration file. Open source typically has a "can do" approach to new features — if you need more, you can do it yourself. Support is available voluntarily in forums. If you have paid for SuSE Linux, presumably Novell will offer some advice for installations on this platform. There is no fee for using this product, but technical knowledge will probably be required to maintain it.

(Credit: Michael Palamountain/ZDNet.com.au)


(Credit: Michael Palamountain/ZDNet.com.au)


(Credit: Michael Palamountain/ZDNet.com.au)

Topics: Microsoft, Browser, Enterprise Software, Google

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